Syrian and Turkish women build a cooperative business – and self-confidence

“I am very happy to be part of this cooperative. We are not only enjoying new friendships with Syrian women, but also exploring new opportunities – in business and in building self-confidence," Derya added.

The cooperative is named Turna, meaning crane in Turkish, a symbol of peace and hope that originates from a Japanese legend. ©FAO/Safak Toros


For many Syrian refugees in Turkey, the food and agriculture sector is an entry point into the Turkish economy because of the sector’s prominence in areas hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees, particularly in the south-eastern provinces and large cities, such as Istanbul and Izmir. Many of them are engaged in agricultural labour and micro-scale food businesses to make their living.

However, most of these opportunities are informal and seasonal, which often expose them to poor working conditions and low and irregular wages. This can also lead to lower wages for workers in local communities who are hosting them, fueling competition and social tensions. Limited access for women to property, equipment, and entrepreneurship opportunities is a significant challenge to starting their own businesses.

FAO conducted market assessments and identified agrifood products which have strong and stable consumer demand in local markets. In close collaboration with local stakeholders, FAO assessed the feasibility of small-scale joint production cooperatives by Syrians and Turkish women. Cooperatives by and for women can offer particular opportunities for them to control their own economic activities, especially in situations where women face social and cultural constraints.

Based on the assessment, in March last year, FAO launched the project “Promoting self-reliant livelihoods of Syrian refugee and Turkish host communities through entrepreneurship in food and agriculture” in Izmir, Sanliurfa, and Mardin provinces with financial support from Japan. Participants were trained in food safety, production, and finance and management.

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